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Opinions of Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Columnist: Elizabeth Ohene

The ill wind that blows JDM away

We have a young lady visiting from Brussels. She has been here for a week and she pointed out in a matter of fact way on Monday that she hadn’t seen the sky in Ghana since she got here.

I paused and realised I also hadn’t seen the sky for I don’t know how long.
I know it is a natural phenomenon, but the harmattan is getting to me. It is oppressive not to be able to see the skies. It is a fundamental human right when you get up in the morning to look up and watch the beauty of the skies.

Joys of Africa

One of the joys of living in Africa is to watch the night skies and the moon and the stars. They are beautiful and captivating and free. Even Mr Seth Terkper hasn’t found a way to tax watching the skies. Now the skies are covered with a blanket of sand from the Sahara Desert and I cannot see the skies.

Our visitor, who had arrived here with the promise of experiencing our beautiful skies, is probably going to leave without ever seeing the skies.

Visibility has become so poor planes are unable to land at our International airport. People have been forced to make unplanned stops in Lagos and Abidjan because their flight couldn’t land in Accra and was diverted to Lagos and Abidjan.

Other people have been stuck in other parts of the world because their flights to Accra were cancelled for days with the explanation that the flights couldn’t land in Accra. I am not even going to try to get into why flights can land in Lagos and Abidjan but cannot land in Accra.

I cannot accept that the harmattan is any less severe in Lagos than in Accra and I refuse to contemplate the thought of our Kotoka International Airport not being as well equipped as Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos.

The poor visibility is affecting drivers on the roads as well and makes the already dangerous driving conditions even worse.

The harmattan is not kind to anything. The curtains in my house are looking miserable, but there is no point in trying to get them laundered now since I have no idea how long this harmattan wind is going on for.

The doors on my cupboards are not closing properly as the wood has developed strange bends. It is obvious the harmattan does not like wooden furniture very much.

We are mopping the floors and dusting the windows and furniture; but after a few hours a layer of fine film of sand settles on them and the rooms get a Miss Havisham room look.

I am determined not to be embarrassed nor apologise when visitors come in and I get the feeling they are looking accusingly at the dusty room and wondering when the last time was the place was cleaned. Maybe I should put up a notice: THIS ROOM WAS CLEANED THIS MORNING.

I suspect I don’t need to and everybody’s room is in the same state. In much the same way that I can’t see the sky in my house, there are dusty rooms all across this harmattan-laden country.

This fine film of sand somehow manages to find its way into closed closets and settles on clothes and shoes. The clothes in my closets get dirty simply hanging in there and the clothes on my body get dirty within minutes of my wearing them. Every crevice on my body is covered with sand and I can even feel the sand when I lick my lips.

Roaring shea butter trade

My skin is parched and cracked. I hate it that I have to put so much moisturiser on my body. About the only saving grace in this dry phenomenon is that the shea butter sellers are doing a roaring trade. The shea butter easily comes out better than any other cream or lotion on the market as the antidote for harmattan induced dry skin.. The more expensive famous brands of creams come nowhere near doing the trick.

This is not a good time to get throaty. There is no such thing as a slight cough during the harmattan period. Don’t get a cough and don’t put any pressure on your chest. This is not the time.

My garden is unhappy and looking it. The lawn is sad and no matter how much watering it gets, it still looks thirsty. Another little saving grace: the flowers that are in bloom during this period look prettier than normal. The flowers might look good but the vegetables are shrivelled and unattractive. I have probably said it before, but I will say it again: the harmattan is an ill wind that blows no good.

Finish hard JDM

Since President John Dramani Mahama is so desperate to find things to fill up the last few days of his time in office, maybe he might take some suggestions from me. Today, Wednesday, January 4, he might want to renew the STX project and perform a sod-cutting ceremony anew. He can remind us of how many houses will be built for the security agencies and tell us how this is a well thought out project and will deliver on the Better Ghana Agenda. He shouldn’t forget to tell the members of the security agencies that they should insist the incoming government finishes the project.

Tomorrow, Thursday, January 5, President Mahama might want to go and cut the sod anew for the 10 billion-dollar Hope City project being sponsored by his rlg friend.

The President might want to remind us about the transformational nature of the project and how it is going to change the face of Ghana. He might want to tell us about the need for us to think big and assure us this was a well thought out project. The community, (is it in Kasoa or in Ada) would be encouraged to make sure the incoming government completes the project.

On Friday, January 6, President Mahama might want to tell us about the plane he has chartered to fly the money to the Black Stars as they play in the AFCON in Gabon.

He is, after all, the President and is doing all he can for the good of the country he loves so deeply and has served so competently.

On Saturday, January 7, President Mahama might discover he is an ex-president, caught in the harmattan dust bowl and the sod cutting is over.